Isaiah foresaw a period known as the latter times (or last days), when the Messiah would be born in His incarnation and when He would set up a world-conquering Kingdom. This is not a future reality we are waiting for but a reality we live in. We are in that end time Kingdom of Christ. We are serving that end-time Messiah who is in His millennial reign. And He will continue to bring about this eschatological Kingdom until the entire earth is under His rule and power. He promised His disciples this very thing in Acts 1, and the Word and Spirit testify that this is still the case today.
The Evangelical Echo of Narcissus
As mythologies go, a young man named Narcissus once lived, blessed with an ethereal beauty that outshone all the other lads of his great day. He was the half-breed son of a river god and tree nymph. From his earliest days, it was apparent that Narcissus possessed a rare and otherworldly charm that drew admirers from every corner of the realm. Yet, despite his captivating allure, he was an incredibly aloof man who was far too distant in his demeanor, casting aside the affections of whoever sought his favor.
One fateful day, as he wandered through the enchanted woods, Narcissus encountered Echo, a nymph ensnared by the curse of Hera. Echo, as her name suggests, could only repeat words that were spoken to her and could not generate an original thought. At least not verbally. And as comedies often go, she fell head over heels in love with the bristly chap, all while lacking the physical ability to express it—just an endless string of echoes.
Like Sting peering in your windows humming “Every Breath You Take,” she followed him around like a real creeper in the night until he obviously spurned her advances and callously dismissed her affections, which shattered her heart into a million microscopic particles.
On this occasion, the gods became incensed by Narcissus’s conceit and cruelty and decided to enact a fitting punishment upon him. Guiding him through the wooded realm, they led him to a crystalline pool of water; its surface was as clear as polished sapphire. As Narcissus bent down to the tranquil pool for a few generous gulps, he beheld his reflection shimmering upon the water’s surface. At that moment, he became so profoundly entrapped by his image, enthralled by his unparalleled beauty, that he fell deeply in love with his reflection and refused to move from that spot.
Hours soon turned into days, and then days quickly morphed into weeks, such that he neglected his own body, sustenance, and thirst and began to wither away. As time wore painfully onward, Narcissus’s beguiling visage collapsed utterly into decline, yet the narcissist could not pull away. In the throes of his obsession, he realized his self-love was going to kill him, and instead of repenting from such a foolish action, he whispered a final farewell to that magnetic reflection and breathed his final breath. In some ways, the modern American Church has followed Narcissus’ decline.
Instead of falling in love with herself, the devil led her down to the murky fount of dispensational waters, and she became so captivated by eschatological futurism and defeatism that she has since withered away in the present. Instead of standing up and leaving that toxic vision to serve God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength and to retake culture by making disciples of all the nations, she sits idly by that squalid pool, consumed with negativity, refusing to see the plain reading of the text, and is so captivated by a future that will never come; she has squandered her witness in the present.
This is why we began talking about eschatology all those weeks ago. That is why we started in the Gospels in general and in Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse in particular (Matthew 24) because there is so much eschatological doom and gloom attached to those verses it took us multiple months to untangle it. Now that this work is complete, it makes good sense to keep going forward, deeper into the New Testament Forrest, proceeding into the book of Acts, so that we can see what futurist and defeatist lies are left to be untangled there. This is intended to strengthen the church and get her to stand up and walk away from the toxic waters of dispensationalism. More than any other, that destructive doctrine has caused the Lord’s Church to wither in the same violent way as Narcissus. And before her lamp stand blows out in the West, I want to call her with all my might to stand up, stop looking at that cursed vision, and to get back into the fight.
Now, let us begin with the text. Luke’s second book opens this way:
The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:1-11
Eschatological Fried Pickles
On rare occasion, before those mouth-watering sub rare ribeye tips arrive mooing on my plate, I often enjoy a basket of deep-fried pickle chips with a healthy cup of boom boom sauce when visiting my favorite local restaurant. The steak is the main course for my meal, of course, but the fried pickles are too good to skip over. This is how I will be approaching this passage. The main course comes at the end, but there are a few little pickles we have to chew on before we get there.
Pickle #1: When do the Events of Eschatology Begin?
The radical futurist would have us believe that the majority, if not all, of the events of eschatology, are situated somewhere in the not-so-distant future. Kind of like a carrot that dangles just beyond the exhausted bite of a weary ass. Instead of those events having already begun, for 2000 years, the futurist has just kept kicking that old can, clattering down the road. The refrain echoes again every century, “the end is just around the corner.” Yet, Jesus disallows this from even being a possibility. What do I mean?
According to Jesus, in this passage, the end is not something we are waiting for; it is something we are already living in. How could I make such an incredible claim? Let me give you one single word: “Began.”
Luke tells us:
The first account I composed [The book of Luke], Theophilus, [was] about all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach. – Acts 1:1 (Emphasis mine)
Luke does not tell us of a Christ whose work was buried away in the remote recesses of future time. Luke tells us of a savior who began that work when He burst upon the scene and that we can trust his most trustworthy accounting of those events.
It is at this point that you may object. “Bah Humbug! Luke didn’t say the events he described were of the eschatological variety! He talked about how Jesus came, preached sermons, did some miracles, died on the cross, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and poured out His Spirit on His people. These are not eschatological events!”
To such an objection, I must heartily retort with an emphatic: “Really?”
When Luke mentions that Jesus ascended “up” and that He went into the “clouds,” was he not referring to the Old Testament eschatological prophecy of the Messiah in Daniel 7, who, in the last days, will ascend up to the Father, on the clouds, and be given His end-time Kingdom?
“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came UP to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.- Daniel 7:13-14 (Emphasis mine)